Beekeeping - a brief history

With blossoms on trees and shrubs in welcome spring sunshine, a lecture entitled A Brief History of Beekeeping seemed suitably appropriate.

This illustrated talk was given by Dr Mick Lynn to a Bexhill Museum audience at St Augustine’s Hall on April 16th.

The importance of the honey bee to man from the earliest time of hunter/gatherers to the present increasing interest in the subject was very well shown in Dr Lynn’s excellent presentation. Early rock paintings from Africa and Spain depict how prehistoric man harvested honey from wild bees. This activity, which still continues in some parts of the world, causes the bee colonies to be destroyed. Mediaeval monasteries were domesticators of the bee, organising the collection of swarms in straw skeps, but this too meant destruction of the colony.

It was not until the early twentieth century that apiculture – the practical management of social species of honey bees living in large colonies – became the modern beekeeping we know today.

Dr Lynn has kept bees for twenty years and he explained how he learned by trial and error to manage his hives in the local countryside.

A selection of the essential equipment of the serious apiarist was on display. The removable frame with its pre-formed wax foundation, which revolutionised the honey harvest when it was introduced in the 1850’s; the trusty smoker to pacify the bees, without which the beekeeper could not work; and most essential of all the all-in-one bee suit. To add extra interest Dr Lynn donned this impressive garment during his talk but refrained from using the protective headgear.

This informative talk closed with the amazing images of smiling young men covered in swarms – apparently when swarming, bees are not aggressive.

The audience may have their own thoughts about whether they would try this form of apparel !

Today the work of the beekeeper is becoming of greater importance as honey bees, and bees in general, are recognised for their role in crop pollination. This was the last of the Museum’s lectures at St Augustine’s this spring. They continue at Bexhill Museum on Wednesday 30th April at 7pm. A magic lantern show by John and Thelma Burgess will be the ‘Voyage of the Sunbeam’ undertaken by the Brasseys. As space is limited advance booking is required. Tickets from the museum shop are £4 or £3 for members. Phone 01424 787950.